Murray Bridge Soldiers' Memorial Hospital leads nation with first AstraZeneca vaccine roll out

The nation's eyes were on Murray Bridge on Friday morning as Australia's first AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was administered to the region's frontline workers at Murray Bridge Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.

Wide media coverage came as 1000 doses of the vaccine was delivered to the Murray Mallee site on Thursday morning.

It coincided with Mount Gambier receiving a 130,000-dose capacity freezer to store the Pfizer vaccine.

From today (Friday) more than 40 frontline staff from the Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network (RMCLHN) are expected to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in regional Australia.

It is still unknown when the vaccine will be made available to the community.

An entourage of state officials, including Premier Steven Marshall, SA Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier, Health Minister Stephen Wade, and local MPs were on site to welcome the AstraZeneca vaccine to Murray Bridge.

RMCLHN executive director of medical services Dr Caroline Phegan was the first among those frontline workers ready to roll up their sleeves to receive the vaccine.

"I know how important it is to vaccinate against a disease like COVID-19 and the rollout of this vaccine is just another way we as healthcare workers can protect ourselves, our loved ones and those most vulnerable to COVID-19," Dr Phegan said.

RMCLHN chief executive officer Wayne Champion said it was an exciting day.

"It was exciting because there's a lot of anticipation, it was exciting because we got to be the first in Australia, it was exciting because we are getting to demonstrate to the community that we are prepared to get vaccinated ourselves," he said.

"We know that the vaccine is safe, we know that it works, and we are absolutely excited about the ability to get our own staff vaccinated to protect our own family and our own community, and want to demonstrate that to the rest of the community and join us when the vaccine becomes more widely available."

Premier Steven Marshall said the state's COVID-19 response to the pandemic has been world-leading.

"... today we will mark another milestone administering the nation's first AstraZeneca vaccine in Murray Bridge," he said.

It comes less than 36 hours after the vaccines' arrival in SA.

He added how the move has taken the state's biggest ever peacetime operation to the next stage.

Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said the expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout to regional areas was an important step towards protecting the whole of South Australia.

"Starting vaccinations in Murray Bridge today is the next step in the vital vaccine roll out, reaching more of our regional based healthcare and quarantine and border workers, as the program broadens to include more priority groups and eventually, all South Australians," the minister said.

Earlier this week he said AstraZeneca required less equipment for it to be stored at the same low temperatures as the Pfizer injection.

To date, SA Health clinics have provided more than 2600 doses to medi-hotel and airport staff, and frontline healthcare workers, including workers at testing clinics and Emergency Departments.

More vaccine hubs at the Riverland General Hospital in Berri, Mount Gambier Hospital, Whyalla Hospital, Port Pirie Hospital and Port Augusta Hospital are expected to come online as the program continues while vaccine clinics will be established throughout the state during each phase of the rollout.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout across South Australia will be undertaken in line with the Commonwealth Government's Vaccine Roadmap.

Find out more about COVID-19 vaccinations at www.covid-19.sa.gov.au.